This story is part of Billboard‘s The Year in Touring package — read more stories about the top acts, tours and venues of 2022 here.
The touring industry’s comeback from the pandemic brought record revenues and ticket sales for the world’s largest promoter, Live Nation, No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end Top Promoters ranking.
Driven by mega tours by Bad Bunny (who had the highest grossing tour of the year), the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Weeknd, Live Nation grossed $4.19 billion and sold 42.3 million tickets from 4,789 in the 2022 tracking period, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore covering a Nov. 1, 2021 – Oct. 31, 2022, collection period.
Live Nation’s reported gross was more than the combined $3.9 billion reported by the promoters ranked from Nos. 2-10.
While Live Nation benefitted from strong demand for arena shows, Cowen and Company analyst Stephen Glagola says Live Nation’s global distribution scale, customizable platform for event managers and its ability to finance artists add to their competitive edge.
“The $9 billion in artists’ fees paid this year is one of their biggest advantages,” Glagola tells Billboard, referencing money Live Nation collects through ticketing and other business areas that it returns to the artist.
As a promoter, Live Nation also gives artists financial guarantees as much as 10 months in advance of events. While that makes Live Nation vulnerable to sharp declines in attendance due to sudden events like a COVID-19 outbreak, it is also a persuasive tool to lock in the biggest artists’ tours.
Live Nation had three of the top 10-highest grossing tours of 2022: Bad Bunny was No. 1, grossing $373.5 million; Red Hot Chili Peppers were No. 6, grossing $177 million; and The Weeknd was No. 10, with $131.1 million.
While promotion is considered a low-margin business for Live Nation, Glagola says, it “drives the flywheel” of the company’s overall economics.
“By getting more artists to promote and tour, it drives some of their higher margin, ancillary revenue, such as food and beverage and hospitality within their owned and operated venues, and the expansion of ticketing,” says Glagola.
On the company’s most recent earnings call, Live Nation executives said the busy 2023 touring season is fueling high demand for live music, despite ongoing questions about the potential impact high inflation and tighter consumer budgets may have on ticket sales.
So far, the company is seeing surging demand.
“Ticket sales for shows in 2023 are pacing even stronger than they were heading into 2022, up double-digits year-over-year, excluding sales from rescheduled shows,” said Rapino. Through the third quarter, Ticketmaster sold over 115 million tickets, up 37% from the same period in 2019. (Live Nation uses 2019 as the most recent year comparable to just its current business.)
Contrary to many industries, supply fuels demand, analysts at Cowen said.
“It has to do with the fact that Taylor Swift only comes on tour every few years,” Glagola says. “When she comes through your hometown you want to see her.”
However, popularity has its pitfalls. Live Nation faces lawsuits and a U.S. Senate hearing next year related to the Nov. 15 Ticketmaster pre-sale for Swift’s 2023 Eras Tour, which saw widespread service delays and website crashes as hundreds of thousands of fans tried — and many failed — to buy tickets.